The Dallas office of the Internal Revenue Service is under scrutiny after allegations that employees were seen wearing and displaying pro-Obama campaign paraphernalia in 2012 near the time the president ran for reelection.
According to KTVT-TV, an Office of Special Counsel document says that IRS employees were wearing pro-Obama campaign shirts, buttons, stickers — and even changing work computers to show a pro-Obama screensaver.
The behavior may be a violation of the federal Hatch Act.
“The fundamental bottom line for the Hatch Act is to limit the Executive Branch—also known as the President—from having an army of federal employees being active in political campaigning, to try to re-elect the President and some of their sponsored candidates,” Dallas lawyer Pete Schulte told KTVT-TV. “So, it’s to prevent federal employees from actively engaging in political activities while they’re on the clock.”
Dallas County Repulbican Party chair Wade Emert said he too was surprised to hear the news.
“No, it’s news to me and frankly it’s very disconcerting,” he told KTVT-TV.
“The largest concern is whether or not these employees are using their office to enforce their own personal political ideology. That’s what we saw happen in D.C. with the IRS targeting certain groups,” he continued. “To the extent these employees are supporters of President Obama, that’s fine, but what they do at work is separate from their personal political life. And it should be separate, and we get into trouble when it’s not.”
According to KTVT-TV, the Office of Special Counsel couldn’t determine if the paraphernalia was displayed before or after the campaign.
“The law distinguishes political activity that happens after an election but prior to the start of another election season,” Schulte said, noting the most severe penalty would be an employee losing their job.
The IRS reportedly isn’t commenting on specific employee situations.
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